We home educate our children, and when those unfamiliar with home education say things like “won’t you be teaching that day?” or “how do you find the time?” or “you must be super organised”, I am prompted to try to explain a bit more.
“Wont you be teaching that day?”…
I don’t see myself as their teacher. I am their mum, first and foremost and definitely not their teacher. Yes, I show them things that I think they’d be interested in, or that I find cool, but I see myself as more of a facilitator than a teacher. I try my best to be led by their own interests. It is so amazing to have a child come and say “mummy how does this happen?” or “how does this work?” or “what is this?” and then we can find the answer together. That’s home education at its best.
I don’t have all the answers to their questions, but I can help my children find the answers and home education allows time for them to follow the things they have in their hearts to do.
I am never standing at a whiteboard with a list of spelling words, and we definitely don’t have “school times” or a schedule. Learning happens all the time and is also life-long.
A real life example is when my 7 year old made a story book. He had drawn about 40 pages of pictures on printer paper and one night he came to me and his dad and explained what was happening on each page. I told him he could bind these together and make it in to a book, to keep the pages together and in the correct order. The next day we bound the pages into a book. I then suggested to him that he could make words for the book so people could read the story he created. He thought this was a good idea, but asked if I could type what he dictated to me, which we did. (I think most people would agree that 40 pages of handwriting would be too much for most 7 year olds!) We then worked together to stick all the words in his book. This book is now a prize possession that’s been shown to grandparents and he is so proud that he made this and has gone on to make others now too. If I had one day said “OK children, today we are going to make a book” , it wouldn’t have had the same appeal. It came from him, and therefore had real life meaning.
“How do you find the time?”
We live our lives as normal, learning as we go. Yes, our children learn to read and write and do maths, just as they might in a school, but its more natural, I believe. They learn to read because they want to know what something says, or they want to be able to play a game properly. They learn to spell because they are writing a story and they want the reader to understand what they mean and to laugh at the funny parts. They ‘do maths’ because they need to make the cake they are baking taste nice and if the measurements are wrong it won’t taste good, or maybe they want to count their money or see if their brother’s old desk will fit in their room. We do use workbooks, but we don’t rely solely on these for our learning. We don’t need to. So much learning happens in real life.
A real life example is that my 5 year old has just this minute asked me how to write “Dan TDM Happy Wheels”, because he wants to watch a video on Youtube. On our TV, when you type the letters with the controller they appear in capitals, rather than the small letter sounds he knows, so I asked if he would like me to type it for him, since it was a pretty long title for him to type. He said no, that he wanted to do it himself, so I guided him on how to type it using the capital letters he has until now, been less familiar with. He did it. We cheered and he’s really proud of himself now. It was meaningful for him. There was a point to it. He wanted to find the correct video. It wasn’t a page of copying capital letters in a workbook.
“You must be so organised”
Em, no. Definitely not. I’m a list maker. I love making lists. It helps me to get my brain onto paper, so I probably look like I’m organised, but I’m not. You see, I rewrite those lists over and over because everything changes all the time. There’s no fixed schedule except we eat three meals a day, sleep for a reasonable amount of time overnight and we have some regular clubs we attend but around that, each day is different, and we see each day as a new day for learning some cool stuff, or for just enjoying the day.
Currently we do no formal book-work, except my daughter, who is 14. She has chosen to work towards IGCSEs, so she follows her own schedule with that and I helped her make a schedule that suited what she wanted to achieve.
The older boys, 10 and 7, I still encourage them to work with a maths book or to write something, but I don’t “require” them to do it all that often, because I see how much they progress without them.
I have titled this post “Autonomous Home Education (sort of)”, because allowing the children the freedom to be completely autonomous in their learning is something I admit I am struggling with. I love the idea of it and we are moving towards being completely autonomous but this mama needs more time to trust that she doesn’t need maths workbooks! I like paper work. I like to have worksheets filled in because to me (who went to school) this looks like it proves learning. But it doesn’t really – if I can see for myself they know a thing because they use it in real life. Would my children choose to use maths books if I didn’t encourage them? – probably not, but would they learn the same maths from real life? – I’m pretty sure they would!
I’ll write more on the maths issue another time as it could probably fill its own blog post x